Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy

US Sues Over Genetic Testing for Insurance Claims 162

Posted by michael
from the first-blood dept.
Marty writes "It appears the U.S. government is setting an excellent precident when it comes to genetic testing and insurance claims. According to the Chicago Tribune, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for "requiring genetic testing of employees who file claims for certain work-related hand injuries" on the basis of civil rights violations. The article states that the tests looked for chromosome 17 deletion, which some studies claim makes a person more susceptible to CTS (more info about the genetic link is available at hnpp.org). Contrast this to recent policies in the UK."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Sues Over Genetic Testing for Insurance Claims

Comments Filter:
  • by po_boy (69692) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @01:20PM (#441104) Homepage
    The odds are always in favor of the house, and if you don't like that, then don't bet.

    The employer is betting the insurance company here. The employee has no choice in this case.

    This could progress to the point where an employer may not hire someone because they "failed" a genetic test. At that point, I wonder if the employee gets the choice to tell the employer that they don't have to pay for disability insurance in order to get the job.

    All your dangifiknow [dangifiknow.com] are belong to us.

  • Where this goal interferes with society's obligation to protect its weakest members, government intervention is necessary. An insurance that only accepts people who don't really need an insurance is little more than a PR trick. Yes, insurance is supposed to be a sort of welfare, distributing money where it is needed.

    So I guess banks should give loans to people that have almost no chance of paying it back, since that is compatible with societies goal "of protecting its weakest members".

    Yeah, I would like to see my APY go down because the bank fancies itself as some sort of charity.

    It's the same thing.
    -

  • But that's the MPAA reasoning: "DeCSS is evil information, because it will be used to make illegal copies of movies".
  • They have a risk of getting any of the problems listed on that page.

    Does this risk make these people (perhaps even you and me) less good at their jobs? No. But this information will be used to deny them jobs because the employer won't pay health insurance for those people.

    However you turn this gem, you will see the flaw. Those people will be denied jobs in their chosen profession on the basis of a risk they might have of getting an illness which they are predisposed of.

    BTW, did you know that people from Finland are predisposed for alcoholism? Maybe we shouldn't hire people from Finland? (Linus Torvalds comes from Finland). Women are predisposed to giving birth (which will keep them from work for a long period). Perhaps we shouldn't hire women.

    The case here is hiring practices and discrimination.
    --
    The Speedy Viking
    http://zez.org/

  • That's the same thing as national health care.

    By all means, do it.
  • The purpose of insurance is to spread the risk and spread the wealth. Running it for profit is a mugs game.

    You end up with the argument from the companies that if you need it you can't get it.

    This type of testing will prove self-defeating because if you can get insurance, you aren't likely to need it so its a waste of money so don't buy any insurance.


    If we had access to perfect knowledge about who was going to be sick with what and when it would happen, insurance systems would disappear. Instead we would have some form of medical savings plan - likely required of those who we know will be suffering a catastrophic illness. The form of the plan might be as a large, government-run honey pot, or as some form of individual savings plan, run by the government and/or private saving institutions.

    Since we do lack this perfect knowledge, there will alway be an incentive for insurance companies to exist and do business. The government will certainly also be involved, but private insurers will be there as well. And they have as much right as you or I do to get the most complete information possible before committing to a contract with any given person (same right as anybody considering entering into a binding agreement).

    The purpose of insurance, for individuals, is to cover their risk of financially catastrophic illness. The purpose of insurance for private companies is to make a profit by providing that risk-covering service.

    Of course, if we could somehow abolish insurance and make everything pay-as-you-go, it would drive medical costs down, but that is another subject...
  • You're rich, aren't you?
    Trying to pretend you're not a greedy bastard.
    Well, you're not going to fool me! No way! 48% tax on you!
  • > What if you have a genetic predisposition to getting hit by buses?

    Become a bus driver.
  • Doing genetic testing is NOT the same as an insurance company asking if you're a smoker. You can always lie about being a smoker.

    Yes you can. And if you develop a smoking-related illness and the insurance company learns that you lied, they will deny your coverage.

    The chief difference between asking you what your risk factors are and doing genetic testing to determine them is that, in the former case, you have the opportunity to lie about it and the lie not be discovered. The net effect of getting away with the lie is the raising of rates for everybody and the reduction of out-of-pocket expenses for the person doing the lying (should they become ill).
  • genetic testing is a tool that gives us information. What we do with that information is what is good or bad, wise or dumb. If it can be determined that a person has an increased susceptibility to a health problem and something can be done about it fine and good. E.g. to keep him out of a dangerous work environment. If it is used to prevent him getting any work or excluding him from health insurance that would be bad.
  • As for the libertarian/right-wing/objectivist combination, they're very much related movements.

    Eh, sort of. Libratrianism grew out of Republicanism, but was fueled by Objectivism (or "saddled with," if you are on that side of things :).

    "Right wing" is a relative term that, in the U.S., conventionally means socially conservative/traditional/authoritarian plus economically liberal, if not anarchist. "Left wing" used to mean the opposite, i.e., socially liberal or even anarchist, but economically authoritarian. It appears that the left is becoming socially authoritarian in recent times as well ("political correctness," etc).

    Neither one has good answers. "Right-wingers" seem to think that whatever makes money but doesn't offend God is a good thing. Left-wingers seem to think that individuals are keen, but they had better keep working for "the common good" and not piss off anybody. Both seem to take disagreement as some type of personal affront.

    "Moderates" are compromisers and pragmatists with no firm beliefs other than the roads should be paved, the kids should be healthy, and there should be good stuff on TV. I.e., keep the ball rolling.

    "Liberal" used to mean approximately what "libertarian" does today -- socially and economically lasseiz-faire -- but today means "left wing". "Conservative" seems to be a purely relative term; today's liberals are tomorrow's conservatives. They are the ones saying "Hey! Not so fast! Turn that down!"

    Objectivists come in two varieties. Type one is the True Believer type who believes and defends everything Rand said or wrote -- except the parts about questioning all authority and thinking for yourself. For them, time stands still. Type two accepts the objectivist philosophy but takes the additional step of recognizing, as Rand said, that when a philosophy does not agree with reality, it's not reality that's wrong.

    In Rand's assessment, Objectivists are "radicals for capitalism", which requires some explaining. To her, capitalism was a different thing than what is labelled "capitalism" today. Capitalism in the objectivist formulation is social and economic freedom and justice. For instace, while the press may report that China is developing a "capitalist economy," to the objectivist thinker they are certainly not. They are simply loosening the shackles a little in order to make the proles work harder. And what the Republicans or Democrats trot out as "free trade" is not capitalism; it is governments lowering tarriffs and subsidies, yes; but it makes no provision for justice and freedom. For instance, "free trade" with China, which is a repressive dictatorship. And "free enterprise" is not capitalism. It seems to mean that individuals get to start licensed businesses doing approved things, and then lobby the government for special protections and subsidies. Capitalism rests on the premise that each person will work for themselves; neither enslaving or exploting others or being enslaved or exploited.

    From Atlas Shrugged:
    "The only proper propose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence.,...,The only proper functions of government are: the police, to proteect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective [i.e., written, accessible and non-"colorable"] law."

    Libertarians can be thought of as ex-republicans who like neither Pat Roberts nor Ayn Rand. Sort of objectivist moderates, without the philosophy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it means they can get aloong with other people and not try to be religious zealots about their pet issues. Many objectivists explain to people that they are Libertarians, because it's basically true, at least where political philosophy is concerned.

    Just because the Libertarian Party isn't a branch of the Objectivist Thingie ("movement?") doesn't mean that they advocate different policies. To both of them, the means are much more important than the ends. The ends are no good if the means by which they were achieved are no good.

    Whew. In summary, if you read Rand and like what she says, but aren't some kind of religious nutjob about it, you're probably a Libertarian, not on the "right wing."

    Libertarians, as was noted, reject the single-axis "right-left wing" political coordinate system, because they see the left and right wing as equally authoritarian given the chance; just in different areas. I.e., the single axis from "left" to "right" makes no provision for people who believe in either freedom or totalitarianism. The Libertarians have a two-axis political coordinate system that takes them into account. Left and right are still left and right, but Libertarians are up and totalitarians/authoritarians are down.

    As Nathanial Branden said, "freedom is still the most radical idea of all."

    And as George W. Bush said, "there ought to be limits to freedom" -- a sentiment echoed far and wide in the American political establishment.

    - - - - -

  • There are people dying of treatable causes in the US because they can't afford health insurance. Long live Canada, Scandinavia, most of Europe and everywhere else where people are treated as humans and for their problems, and not only as a sack of money.


    Canada does NOT treat people. It sends them to us.

    Nothing stops you from getting treatment in the US.

    Insurance only keeps you from going broke. The US keeps you alive.

  • Actually that is incorrect. The car insurance is being determined by: do you have a penis or a vagina? Having a penis does not mean you are XY, you can be XXY, or even XX. The same for a vagina, XY or XXY, OR XXX. Most recent example i can site is in a recent Discover magazine article, 'Vital Signs', of a female with XY genes. And not an isolated thing, as it was a hereditary problem. (and if you're scratching your head trying to think how, http://www.discover.com/dec_00/featvital.htm )
  • Genetic testing will NOT be a tool to determine who should have a lower rate. It will only be used to determine who should have a HIGHER rate. Just look at HMO's. HMO... affordable healthcare at the expense of the people. As a result of HMO, insurance company's have been ROLLING in the $. Trust me, I know this from personal experience.
  • Allow me to simplify this. If insurance companies are allowed to do genetic testing prior to approving people for coverage, then the only people able to get coverage will be the ones than don't need it.

    We now return to your regular programming...

  • The issue is not whether a company can test employees to determine whether they are too high risk to insure, but whether a company can insure employees and then, after they file for benefits, test them and use the results of the test to attempt to deny coverage.

    Do you see the difference? In the former case, the company performs the testing and either covers the employee or not up front. In the latter case, the company has contracted with the employee to provide coverage, but is now attempting to renege on the terms of that coverage, using the testing to establish some vague justification for denial of coverage. The problem is that predisposition is not causative; there is no way to prove that a predisposition to CTS is responsible for a patient acquiring CTS, where someone without the predisposition wouldn't.

    Imagine that you've worked for the same company for twenty years, paying $100/month for health insurance. You've never been sick a day in your life, up until the day you have a heart attack at work. While you're lying in the hospital bed, the company's insurance representative comes in and tells you that, because a genetic test given as part of your care indicated that you have a genetic predisposition to heart attacks, none of the care you've been given and will need are going to be covered by your health insurance, even though your policy states that the treatment is covered.

    Now contrast that with applying for work at the company, taking a preemployment physical, and being told that you have a genetic predisposition for heart attacks, and have your choice of having coverage for heart attacks excluded from your health insurance coverage, or paying an extra $10/month for coverage.

    Which one is acceptable practice? And which one equates to what BN is doing with its CTS claims?

  • The only problem I can see coming up from this is a problem of ethics. A company performing a test to cognitively rationalize the efficiency and accountability sounds expensive, but if the job requires it, I don't see a problem with it. That said, if I were to be applying for a position, and they found I had a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, would that be a valid reason to not hire me? Or what if I showed positive for Parkinsons (a disease that doesn't strike for a number of years)?
  • Maybe we can slowly wipe out the insurance companies and eventually setup a national healthcare system like Canada has.
  • I really don't even like my employer taking a urine sample once every few years for random drug tests, but I do it simply because I like my job.

    It's because of people like you that employers like that are still able to find people to work for them. Stand up for yourself!

    All your dangifiknow [dangifiknow.com] are belong to us.

  • Oh, so if I'm found to be more susceptible to CTS, I shouldn't be alowed to use my brain in a computing environment. Rather, I should be a greeter at walmart or something?

    Just because I _may_ test positive for some genetic flaw doesn't mean that I won't be right for the job. If I am fully capable of getting a job, and have no problem performing said job, WHY THE HELL SHOULD ANYONE BE PENALIZED FOR A POSSIBLE GENETIC FLAW THAT MAY OR MAY NOT CAUSE ANY PROBLEMS AT ALL!!!???

    Use some god-damned common sense and look at where this will inevitably lead if corporations are allowed to continue on in this direction.
  • by po_boy (69692) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @01:26PM (#441124) Homepage
    Just because someones genetic code predicts hes going to die from a heart attack in 20 years doesn't mean he won't get hit by a bus tomorrow.

    What if you have a genetic predisposition to getting hit by buses?

    All your dangifiknow [dangifiknow.com] are belong to us.

  • As a doctor, I can understand why you say what you do. But what happens to the people that "fail" the genetic testing? "Sorry...you have a terminal condition, so you can't have insurance, a job, or medical care of any kind. Have a nice day." Besides, your arguement sounds suspiciously similar to the arguement against welfare. Everyone on welfare MUST be degenerate, and cheating the system...so now our social safety net is back to what it was before the Great Depression. That's lovely. Finally: You are a doctor, right? Why are you complaining about insurance fraud? It's very comforting to know that you are advocating something that will just ruin peoples lives.
  • by rlk (1089) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @01:29PM (#441126)
    Nothing's really gained by foisting the cost on employers per se, but the whole system of health insurance through the workplace is badly flawed to begin with. However, allowing insurers to screen people for genetic issues, and offering no alternatives, means that some people will be unemployable and uninsurable. If not for simple humanitarian concerns, the prospect of a large number of people who will never be granted an opportunity to participate in the economy -- and therefore to either be on welfare or have no choice but to, shall we say, live any way they can -- should make it clear why this kind of policy is just asking for trouble in the long run.

    Life isn't an economic textbook folks.
  • I'm glad they're setting a precedent for the biotech companies (remove the "e" from biotech to see what I think of them). This really hits home because, as my genome reads, I'm slated to have prostate problems at middle age. My grandfather had BPH, and my uncle just had surgery on his enlarged prostate, so I know what to expect once I hit 35. Fortunately, that's 16 years away.
  • Go rent it. See what the future is like if genetic testing becomes commonplace.
  • touche' Excellent point. I guess I have nothing to say about it.

    Often wrong but never in doubt.
    I am Jack9.
  • No, I am arguing that we need to tread carefully with this, lest we end up in the situation where only those who can afford insurance are those who do not need it. And then a clamor will rise for government-run healthcare, and this time it will win out and we will have a lot more socialism than either of us want.

    I do not have all the answers. But I know that I need to have a better answer for those hard cases than "Life's tough, get a helmet."

    -cwk.

  • The problem is that only the most intelligent and wealthy of people (the two are directly related. The Bell Curve) will be able to afford genetic screening and so will inevitably become genetically perfect, like a master race, while the poor remain like old fashioned Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

    Do we want to see Homo Superior Plutocri overrun us all? I don't, so we must be careful what we do here.

    I don't mind -- I'm working hard on making sure myself and my ancestors are among those "intelligent and wealthy", you seem to be afraid of.

    Please, consider restricting your efforts at helping the poor and stupid, and be sure not to obstruct the wealthy and intelligent.

  • What is the purpose of government? Is preventing natural death a part of that purpose?

    I was merely saying that in the case of those that have become 'uninsurable' the government should either force insurance companies to provide coverage or pay for it themselves.

    To my mind the government exists to handle those activities whose operations are only marginally profitable or can only be operated at a loss. Insuring a person who is highly likely to die of cancer at the age of 30 is one of those duties. Few people could afford to pay the premiums that would make such a policy profitable for a private carrier

    -josh

  • Either prevent the corporations from excluding certain people or make them government institutions. Even the most ideologically blinded libertarian will have to acknowledge that it won't work any other way in the long term.

    It's OK, the dead don't complain very much. It all works out in the end.
    -

  • Well...actually, it isn't. But the alternative is worse. Let me lay some facts out for you:

    Soon, everyone will be able to get a test to see what genetic problems they have.

    The healthy ones will have little or no interest in many types of insurance.

    The unhealthy ones will have a great interest in many types of insurance.

    Now, insurance already has many problems, because it's a transaction where one party (the people buying insurance) have more knowledge than the other party. This is always a bad thing from a standpoint of "fairness". Given the above mentioned facts, if insurance companies are denied knowledge of genetic tests, the situation will get a WHOLE lot worse.

    See, all of a sudden, anyone who wanted insurance would be someone no insurance company would want to insure...and the only people who an insurance company could insure wouldn't want to purchase insurance. Insurance only works by spreading risks, so that the unhealthy are in the same "pool" as the healthy. If you remove the healthy (and genetic tests WILL do this), then the life and health insurance will no longer be functional. There will BE no insurance. At all.

    Now, the alternative is to make the information available to everyone. That will have the effect of making a lot of people uninsurable (at least for an affordable amount of money), but at least SOME people will still be able to get insurance.

    So essentially, you have a choice. Keep genetic tests private (and thus end all insurance), or don't (and only end some). Or, the goverment could offer universal health (and/or life) insurance, paid for by tax dollars. This would be the "fairest" solution, but I doubt anyone would really welcome the added tax burden.

    Either insurance must be universal, or the knowledge has to be shared equally, or there will be no insurance. Choose.
  • If you truly want to improve society and help those that are down, then you need to get out and do it. Convincing others or lobbying to have laws passed that force others to do it not only is wrong by the definition of the founders of this country, but is wrong and amoral by your own definition as you stated above.

    What? I often disagree with people on here, but you are one of the few that has succeeding in writing prose that is almost impossible to decipher.

    Nonetheless, I will address what I think your points were. I have no intention of donating my life's savings to pay for the medical care of strangers just so that insurance companies can line their pockets. Even if I was willing to, there are not enough people in the U.S. willing to do that to make a difference. That's why we need laws to protect people from genetic discrimination. That is why I have written to my Congressional representatives asking them to pass laws against insurance companies requiring genetic testing.

    You remind me of George W. Bush and his "compassionate conservatism" bullshit. That's just code for letting companies run roughshod over people and cutting government services so that the rich can pay less taxes.

    What has lead you to believe that our founding fathers were against laws that protected people and promoted the general welfare of U.S. citizens? We have many laws that limit the actions of corporations in order to protect individuals.

  • by joshv (13017) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @08:51PM (#441136)
    You actually believe that the insurance companies would voluntarily lower your premiums? Screening for illnesses has been improving for decades and medical insurance costs have just gone up while the coverage has gone down.

    Yes I do - it is a competive market. But it also is essentially a zero sum game, overall average premiums are set by overall health care costs and the profit margins the insurance companies are willing to make. So all things being the same, if my premiums go down, someone else's have to go up.

    Finally, you equate smoking with genetic predispositions to illnesses. In the former case, it's a choice. In the latter, it's just bad luck. And the purpose of insurance is to financially protect people who are unlucky.

    Fine, don't like that example? Should a person with Down's Syndrome who is the age of 29 be able to take out a million dollar life insurance policy and pay the same premiums I do? (I am also 29) Or a person with Cystic Fibrosis? Or a personal with Multiple Sclerosis? Certainly not, these people have drastically curtailed lifespans and to allow them the same insurance benefit for the same price amounts to giving them money. These genetic diseases just happen to have symptoms that manifest themselves without the need of a genetic test - but we have no problem treating these people differently with respect to insurance premiums. Why should we have a problem with any other genetic disease, once a test has revealed it's presence?

    -josh

  • No no no, you silly. Insurance is about trying to find a bunch of healthy people, convince them they're sick, get them to buy insurance, get them to go to the doctor. The cool part is that the insurance companies have ALREADY gone to the doctor and said "Hey, the only people who will come see you are people who are in our protection racket, and so you need to sign up with us so you can get paid" and then, once the doctor has rendered services, not pay the doctor. THAT is what insurance is about! Making as much money as possible while creating havoc and heartache and financial ruin for as many people as possible. Otherwise, how would the insurance companies justify the fact that they only pay out 10-20% of their premiums in benefits?

    It's a protection racket, operated by fraud, deceit, coercion of the medical community, and co-option of the government. Used to be the Mafia was the only game this smooth.
  • Why shouldn't companies be allowed to test their employees for conditions that would lead to higher health care cost and exclude those it feels are too expensive to cover? What is served by foisting these costs on to employers?
  • No! No no no! You've completly missed (or forgoten) what's wrong with discrimination.

    As an example, my mother is very smart (easily the smartest person I've ever met). When she went to university, it was assumed by the faculty that women just couldn't handle the "hard sciences", and she was very activly discouraged from taking physics and chemistry. After all, she was female--calculus would just confuse her, right?

    That's an example of "bad" discrimination--people making a judgement about intelligence based on sex.

    On the other hand, there would be nothing wrong with "discriminating" against stupid people because they're stupid, or even against females because they're female. Not hiring a guy to be a wet nurse isn't discrimination, it's common sense--just like not hiring an idiot to work in a nuclear power plant is common sense.

    On the other hand, not hiring someone to a job that requires inteligence because of something other than inteligence (such as race or sex) *IS* bad discrimination.

    That's why racism and sexism are bad. Not because they involve people not ignoring skin color or sex (ignoring stuff like that would be silly), but because they're using those attributes to make decisions that have nothing to do with the atributes in question. Prejudice (that is, the belief attributes with no correlation really are linked) is bad, but discrimination is not (unless coupled with prejudice).

    As a matter of fact, it *IS* right to take into account someones risk of frostbite when hiring for a job involving work in cold weather. It would be lunacy to do otherwise. It would ALSO be lunacy to take into account someones skin color when hiring, EXCEPT to the extent that skin color effects the risk of frost bite (and ONLY to that extent).
  • by Urban Existentialist (307726) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @12:40PM (#441140) Homepage
    It seems to me that the big problem is that people will be able to get genetic tests done personally, and then get insurance policies based on those claims, and then make a fortune because they know precisely what is going to happen to them!

    This is the flip side of the coin.

    So what are the consequences? Well, if there is no genetic testing by insurance companies then there will be no insurance industry, because insurance is all about probability, and when as far as the customer is concerned there is no uncertainty, but as far as the company is concerned there is, and insurance agreement is unattainable, and even redundant completely anyway.

    The problem is that only the most intelligent and wealthy of people (the two are directly related. cf The Bell Curve) will be able to afford genetic screening and so will inevitably become genetically perfect, like a master race, while the poor remain like old fashioned Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

    Do we want to see Homo Superior Plutocri overrun us all? I don't, so we must be careful what we do here.

    You know exactly what to do-
    Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh-

  • "Right wing" is a relative term that, in the U.S., conventionally means socially conservative/traditional/authoritarian plus economically liberal, if not anarchist. "Left wing" used to mean the opposite, i.e., socially liberal or even anarchist, but economically authoritarian. It appears that the left is becoming socially authoritarian in recent times as well ("political correctness," etc).

    The terms stretches beyond the US; when used internationally it's a slightly more vague term. It's also somewhat fluid term; what the left and right represent changes somewhat over time. Still you've hit a basically fair definition; as somewhat to the left I disagree with the political correct atmosphere that infects it, though I think people overestimate just how pervasive it is. That said, while libertarians might differ with the right on certain issues, I think there are another similarities to put it in the same broad group that includes republicans and conservatives. Of course it's not my call, but the rest of society seems to basically agree; witness the Cato Institute, which is termed a libertarian think tank now, but which I've heard referred to as a conservative think tank many times in the past.

    "Moderates" are compromisers and pragmatists with no firm beliefs other than the roads should be paved, the kids should be healthy, and there should be good stuff on TV. I.e., keep the ball rolling.

    I'll have to object to your views of moderates. I fall into the left-moderate category; moderation can also be a simple recognition of the fact that maybe I don't have all the answers, and I may be wrong in some things. That's what separates the zealots from those who are truly open in their thinking. True democracy can be categorized by a balance of views I think.

    And what the Republicans or Democrats trot out as "free trade" is not capitalism; it is governments lowering tarriffs and subsidies, yes; but it makes no provision for justice and freedom.

    But neither does libertarianism as I've seen it most often expressed. I've noticed libertarians tend to be very isolationist in terms of promoting the ideas of "justice" abroad.

    And "free enterprise" is not capitalism. It seems to mean that individuals get to start licensed businesses doing approved things, and then lobby the government for special protections and subsidies. Capitalism rests on the premise that each person will work for themselves; neither enslaving or exploting others or being enslaved or exploited.

    It's interesting how such a staunch anti-Communist as Rand takes a somewhat Marxist view of the underlying form of society; resources and labor as forming the structure of society. Admittedly I haven't had much exposure to Rand; what philosophical training I have has been in university philosophy departments, which tend to discount her as a serious philosopher; strangely enough, I found that one of the few philosophical analyses of Rand's work was written by a former professor of mine, though I don't remember any Randian thought infiltrating the course. What I have seen and heard, however, is pretty distasteful. She seems to combine Nietzche and Adam Smith, taking out the philosophical rigor and cramming it all into what appear to be truly awful novels which seem to appeal mainly to teenagers and college students with persecution complexes.

    "The only proper propose of a government is to protect man's rights,

    That statement by itself isn't really that disagreeable, though I'd also propose that governments should also serve as ways to coordinate large-scale projects that are too large for private individuals to run (i.e. space program, highway system, etc).

    The problem I have with objectivists is their idea of "rights" consists solely of negative ones (in the philosophical sense of an obligation not to do something rather than do something). This isn't a bad idea in say a frontier society, where every person has more or less as much space as he or she wants between themselves and other people. But this planet has gotten too crowded for governments to be reactive rather than proactive in these kinds of things. For example, I believe in strong, what you might even call authoritarian, environmental regulations. Yes, it impedes business interests and economic freedom, but I think maintaining the integrity of our environment is more important.

    I just realized this post isn't that coherent; chalk it up to an extremely irregular sleep schedule.
    --
  • With all the individual rights that have been taken away over the past few years, I'm very proud to see the US government trying to make a stand against genetic testing. I wonder when the corporations will finally stop. First it was just aptitude testing, then drug testing, and now this. Who knows what will come next.
  • Let them test for genetic flaws, but not until one very important prerequisite is met... A genetic modification to correct the flaw must be readily available.
    I think that the main reason this is so unfair is that we have no way of fixing the genetic 'mistakes' inherited at conception. If I have the ability to correct a flaw in my genes and choose not to, then I don't see it as being much of an injustice to be denied insurance because of it.
  • by tykals (266589) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @12:41PM (#441144)
    The discrimination laws were imposed because people were making arbitrary distinctions. If it can be scientifically proven that a certain attribute (for example, being male) actually disadvantages a person, why is it so bad to discriminate with reason?

    Remember though, that any disadvantage will often have an upside. The "disadvantaged" are actually better in other areas. They shouldn't try to push themselves to where they don't belong. For example, deafness may be an immediate problem, but other senses are dramatically enhanced. In a job where hearing capabilities are not required, a deaf person can work better than a non-deaf person.

    We must realize that just as people have mental preferences to certain work, their genes also have preferences.

  • Now, I'm no communist/socialist/marxist

    But your solution is a socialistic one.

    The reason insurers have so much of a say in the medical field is because Congress long ago took away the income tax deduction for individual medical expenses. This forced the burden onto employers (large companies asked for it during WWII as a way to increase wages on the sly), who retain a tax break for providing health care to their employees. So insurance-as-intermediary-to-health-care is an invention of Congress.

    Socializing medicine will do to medicine what California's misnamed "deregulation" has done for electricity: make it scarce.

  • Above all, genetic information is just information. Any restriction on the flow of information is evil, isn't it? So this is a subject where all the "information is for everyone" types better be silent.
  • ive always wondered, what is "gattaca" the sequence for?
    Jelly doughnuts.

    True story, or it oughta be: when JFK delivered his ich bin ein Berliner speech, what he apparently did not know is that the article ein in that sentence was not only superfluous, but silly. What he meant to say was ich bin Berliner (I am a citizen of Berlin). To a Berliner, ein Berliner is a pastry not unlike a jelly doughnut. So Kennedy was calling himself a jelly doughnut to thousands, perhaps millions of German-speakers. And they were grateful.

  • How do you know that they won't turn YOU down? Do you really know all there is to know about your genetic code that you can be so sure of yourself that you wouldn't be excluded altogether or pay astronomical premiums?

    Now that's a great point; wish I'd thought of it. Though I'm sure most slashdotters are confident that their genes are without major flaws...
    --
  • by crow (16139) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @12:44PM (#441149) Homepage Journal
    Insurance companies may well need to discriminate on the basis of genetic testing. Whether this discrimination takes the form of higher premiums or outright refusal of coverage doesn't really matter, but the right of the company to make such discrimination should be considered.

    Why?

    Because the people they are insuring may have access to the same genetic testing information. This information may be direct, through the same sort of genetic testing, or indirect, through family history of ailments or such.

    Consider life insurance: If anyone with a terminal illness could go and buy a million dollars in term life insurance, the life insurance companies would go bankrupt. Hence, most life insurance policies require some sort of health review to make sure you don't have some sort of known terminal illness.

    It's a matter of having a level playing field. Insurance companies should be able to have as much medical information about you as you do. They need to be able to determine the risk of insuring you as well as you are able to determine the risk yourself.

    Something to consider before complaining about evil privacy-invading mega-corporations.
  • Insurance lobbyists [opensecrets.org] outspend every other industry. They must be greasing the wrong palms.

    It's nice to see that every once in a while, instead of taking the industry lobbyists' money and doing what they want, our "elected" representatives will have a fit of conscience, and take the lobbyist's money and not do what they want.

    In the past I've humbly suggested that instead of giving money to the insurance companies who give it to congress which passes laws which require that we give more money to the insurance companies, we all just send our money directly to congress, in an unmarked shoebox. But in light of this new development, I suppose I'll have to reconsider.

  • This is why your country is so screwed. By handing over healthcare finance to a corrupt insurance system, you ignore the human side of the process, the fact that your clients are people.

    Yes, the Canadian system of "just treat anybody who's a citizen and needs it" is disorganized, inefficient, and occasionally ineffective, but at least we're willing to accept who/what you are and treat you anyways, regargless of your features.

    In Canada, such gene-mapping would be voluntary and be protected under the hippocratic oath. A person has the right to know about their own genetic mappings. Its certainly not anyone elses business though.
  • Okay, first, I voted for GWB and would scare most slashdotters with my right-wing views. But in my old age, I am coming to soften my Randian views in a few areas. For instance, risk-pooling insurance. What if you have a single mother genetically predisposed to heart disease? She may not be able to afford the premiums for health or life insurance, and when she croaks, the welfare system will be left holding the bag to take care of the kids. TANSTAAFL. Societal stability comes from things like people being able to hedge against tragedy, illness, and death. At some point we need to concede that the benefit we all get from this stability offsets the penalty that some of us pay for insuring riskier parties. So what do I think is the right free-market solution? Genetic engineering. If we can find genetic problems, then let's cure them, like we did polio. -cwk.
  • by TheFlu (213162) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @01:42PM (#441153) Homepage
    "Insurance fraud is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US alone."

    While the Coalition against Insurance Fraud [insurancefraud.org] claims that 10% of all auto and home insurance claims are fraudulent ($79 billion per year they say), my quick review of the IRS data [treas.gov] on the issue just doesn't seem to support that claim.

    Considering the fact that in the State of Utah [state.ut.us], there were an astounding 61 cases of insurance fraud in 1999 alone! WOW! 61 cases of fraud in one year coming from a state with 2,129,836 [economagic.com] people. That's less than .01% of the population commiting insurance fraud.

    Fraudulent zodiacs. The Linux Pimp [thelinuxpimp.com]

  • I have to agree fully here. I am currently majoring in genetics, so I do know a fair bit about this stuff. Most people posting don't seem to understand that a genetic predisposition to something like cancer does not mean that you are certain to get cancer later in life. It simply means that you may be more likely to do so if you do not take precautions. Even then, we really do not understand all the factors well enough yet to say that with any certainty. I also would recommend the movie GATTACA for an example of the logical conclusion of such testing.
  • I just bought a DVD player yesterday, and went out and bought Gattaga and Heat to test it out. Great timing, as I just got done watching Gattaga (for about the tenth time).

    The movie is a great example of what can result from allowing things like this. While it is just information, given a job candidate (or an person to insure) who is more prone to certain illnesses over someone who is not, who are you going to hire/insure?

    Rent the movie.

  • Mein schuh ist in den Kartoffelsalat. Danke.
  • The Insurance companies play god every day, and mostly in the name of almighty dollar.
    I hear alot about "Rights", who makes them? The insurance companies.
    When someone takes the rights away from people based on any criteria, your no better than the racists nazi's.
    I see no difference between denying the medical attention needed because someone was marked high-risk. Should we just put a little yellow star on them? Black, Yellow, DNA-X, you should have the same "Right" as everyone on earth to medical attention.

    You cant pick your genetic makeup. Soon we will have to base our society on DNA. Its not the person with the better skills, its the one who has the lower genetic factors.

    Seems to be alot of "genetic" racists on /.

  • When someone takes the rights away from people based on any criteria, your no better than the racists nazi's.

    So tell me... What do you think of jails and police?

    you should have the same "Right" as everyone on earth to medical attention.

    Medical attention that has to be provided by other human beings... You're all in favour of the "right" to medical attention. What do you think of a person's right to not be forced to provide for all takers, regardless of what the provider stands to lose?
  • Go and rent the movie Gattica. You'll see why it's a problem.
  • How does Gattica prove that anything is wrong with genetic testing?

    All Gattica does is re-enforce the notion that anyone can overcome any sterotype or biased through hardwork, dedication, lofty goals, and the occasional sly urine replacement.

    Seriously though, Gattica is a great movie, but not particularly good to judge this case by.
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @11:01PM (#441161) Homepage Journal
    Why should we have a problem with any other genetic disease, once a test has revealed it's presence?

    I am not against charging someone a higher rate if they have already been diagnosed with a disease. What I am against is compelling someone to take a genetic test, essentially adding information to their medical history, and then charging them a higher premium or denying them coverage if the test shows a predisposition to get a disease. If I apply for insurance, the decision as to whether to insure me and the premium I am assigned should be based solely on my existing medical history -- not some insurance company mandated test that attempts to predict whether I am more likely to contract a disease sometime in the future.

    I am against charging people extra for risk factors that are beyond their control -- especially when the information is not already a part of their medical history. If they have a disease that has been diagnosed, that's a totally different matter.

  • Soon, everyone will be able to get a test to see what genetic problems they have.

    The healthy ones will have little or no interest in many types of insurance.

    The unhealthy ones will have a great interest in many types of insurance.

    Anyone who voluntarily chooses to do without medical insurance because they are "healthy" is a complete, f****** moron. Do you have any idea what it costs even for simple, commonplace things like appendectomies, setting broken bones, and other common ER procedures that "healthy" people undergo? And it's not like healthy people never develop horrible diseases. They do.

    The debate here is not whether you can withhold medical records when applying for insurance (you cannot -- it is called "insurance fraud"). The question is whether the insurance companies and employers should be allowed to force you to take genetic tests for the purposes of denying coverage or increasing premiums.

  • by joshv (13017) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @01:54PM (#441163)
    Insurance is about creating a shared pool of risk. When the pool is large, some people are going to be charged disproportinately more compared to their actually risk. This is why insurance companies like to evaluate, as much as possible, the risk factors in the people that they insure. Are you a smoker? Well then, that puts you in a different pool with a higher premium. Not a smoker? Well then you pay less.

    They do this in order to save money and give lower risk people lower premiums. Life insurance for a 20yr old should cost less than for a 60 year old. In many cases we consent to divulge our age, our sexual habits, our smoking and eating habits, and family history of disease so that insurance companies can determine what risk pool we belong in. We end up sharing the risk with people who are similar to ourselves and to most of us this ideas seems basically fair.

    Now I am not defending the insurance companies or the employer in this particular case. I think genetic testing at this state in the games is far from an exact science. We have found some genes that likely lead to higher incidence of some diseases, but the evidence is sparse, and in most cases we have no clear cause and effect relationship. In all cases we have barely a clue how these genes work.

    But this inexact science will improve and there is no stuffing the genie back into the bottle on this one. If the tests get better and statistical studies back them up, I see no reason why the insurance companies should not be privy to the same genetic information that you are.

    I am not saying that they should be able to force you to take a particular test - but if you have taken a genetic test, they should have access to that information as well. Any other solution is essentially supporting insurance fraud, like lying about your smoking, or claiming you have no history of heart disease when both your grandfather's died of heart attacks at 45.

    The decision to take a test should be your own. But the results of the test should be shared with your insurer, in just the same way you would share the information with your personal physician so that she can give you better care.

    Granted, this may make some people essentially 'uninsurable' - well, this is where the federal government should step in. Either forcing private insurers to take lower profits and cover the extremely high risk folks, or covering them themselves under a federally funded plan.

    Everyone assumes this will automatically mean higher premiums. For some yes, for others premiums will be cheaper. Suppose you have genetic resistance to AIDS (yes, there is such a thing), and no genetic predisposition to heart disease or cancer. Wouldn't you like a break on your premiums? Or maybe you are the type that would like to pay the same as a smoker does. Not me.

    -josh
  • To use your language...

    In order to assess fair and suitable insurance premiums, insurance companies seek to assess the risk of a claim as accurately as possible, using whatever information is available. Family history and past medical history are entirely relevant sources of this information, and so is genetic information, AS LONG AS it is used objectively, and is well supported by data.

    Insurance is a game of odds - any additional information used to assess them is a GOOD thing. Why, if my odds of making a claim are less than someone else's, should I have to pay the same as they do? I should be paying less.

    As for your other rants ('freedom to choose a career', etc.) they're disregarded - no one is taking away anyone's opportunities. Get real.
  • Your third example is what as known as moral hazard. It's true that when health care is provided for a flat fee, or with no cost to the consumer with extra demands. However, it's actually much more likely to happen with government intervention. It's government regulations that force healthcare coverage that tends to cause such things. Without the government regulation, people are free to settle on health care plans that use methods like deductibles to reduce moral hazard.
  • What is served by insurance companies that do not provide coverage?

    How about the fact that screening people means they can't make a living so that they can improve themselves and tdeal with such problems?

    How about the fact that genetics is bogus anyway? It's like trying to find meaning in the Sistine chapel by examining its bricks.

    What defines a deisease is the proteins produced by genes, proteins which make up amino acids. It's the acids that cause the body to work or fail to function. Amino acids can be fixed.
  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @01:59PM (#441168) Homepage Journal
    All this does is provide a legal method of genetic cleansing. Deny insurance to the low/high-risk masses, and they wont have insurance for their children.

    Are you pure enough to have insurance?

  • Test the babies before they are born. If they are determined to have defective genes (that is they will end up costing some insurance company money) kill them before they are born.

    This would save lots of money for corporations.
  • What happens to the poor slob who has a disease and can not be insured?

    1) He get help from the govt and you pay for it with your tax dollars.
    2) He figures what the hell he's going to die anyways and goes on a rampage and robs banks or stores and you end up paying for it.
    3) He end up in jail and gets free health care and you end up paying for it.

    No such thing as free lunch. Unless you put a bullet in his head as soon as he is diagnosed you are going to pay for it one way or another.

    If I was in that position I would definately go on the rampage what do you have to lose? If you get away with it you got a lot of money, if you get caught you get healthcare.
  • As I've stated earlier [slashdot.org] all this talk of "genetic discrimination" is a smoke screen for other interests.

    To clarify the issue Charles Murray, coauthor of "The Bell Curve : Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life [amazon.com]" put forth the following challenge:

    As I read the debate about whether categorizing humans according to the Big Three races (or some other small number of races) is valid or useful, I wonder if someone can think of something comparable to the Turing Test that can be used to falsify at least some of the positions as genetic knowledge grows.

    The direct analogy would be to calculate the percentage of agreement between visual categorizations by race and categorizations based solely on DNA samples from the same sample of people. But it doesn't need to be so simple. One of the nice things about the Turing Test is that it does not require a binary yes-no answer. It consists of a series of timed tests and successes-failures in identifying the entity at the other end of the interrogation, so that the result is a probability. Something analogous would be appropriate to a Turing Test for the validity of race as a construct.

    The main thing is that to get some sort of a priori agreement by parties to all sides of the debate that the test will be a fair one when it becomes doable. If no such thing exists--if we're really talking about nonfalsifiable positions--then why are we arguing?

    Charles Murray

    My response, which apparently satisfied Dr. Murray as an adequate test, involved the insurance industry as follows:

    Actuaries are currently prohibited, by law, from using "race" in the much of their risk assessment. Probably the best Turing test for "race" would be to deregulate the insurance industry so actuarial teams can use whatever variables in whatever models to take money away from other actuarial teams.

    Nothing like the threat of financial loss vs promise of financial reward to root out sloppy thinking in a jiffy.

    I mean, either "race" has utility, relative to the constellation of other variables that "race" deniers would have us rely upon, or it doesn't.

  • Read the article. When someone is injured on the job, then they test the person for a predisposition.

    Workers comp covers work related injury. Not injuries soley from work. If you are predisposed to something, and working causes it to happen, WC is supposed to cover it.

    Why not fire women when they become pregnant. Pregnancy increases risk of carpal tunnel. What about anyone over 30?

  • That's 61 cases of fraud for which people were caught, tried, and convicted. The actual number of frauds committed is much, much higher.

    My mother works as an independent consultant to a number of insurance companies. She's also served as an expert witness in a few claimant vs insurance company cases. She sees a lot of fraud cases that slip by simply because it would be too difficult or expensive for the insurance company to prosecute. Also, the courts are strongly biased in favour of the "little guy", even if the little guy is screwing all of us through fraud.
  • by tshak (173364) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @02:19PM (#441183) Homepage
    Now, I'm no communist/socialist/marxist, but I'm amazed that no one has mentioned what the root of the problem is. This whole genetic testing issue should be waking a lot of people up. Making peoples health a business (i.e. health insurance) is sick, and the U.S., although I'm glad is not allowing genetic testing, should employ a national healthcare program. I find it morally grotesque that someone will go to the hospital in need, and be turned away because they don't have the money or insurance. Sure, governments have never been as efficient as privitized organizations, and squandering can happen (see Canada), but at least everyone is treated equally.
  • I find it morally grotesque that someone will go to the hospital in need, and be turned away because they don't have the money or insurance.

    Wow! Where does that happen? Not here, in fact, that's why the government passed the motorcycle helmet law. They said the bikers with bashed in heads were showing up in emergency rooms and they had no insurance or money. The federal government steps in at that point and pays the hospital to treat the guy.

    THAT'S why laws that are restricting our freedom are being passed, because the government is assuming responsibility for us.

    And a national heath care program would give them even MORE responsibility. Imagine all the garbage "Behavior modifying" laws they'd cram down our throats if we made them ultimately responsible for our health.

    The best system is to look out for yourself. You can buy insurance, you can pay cash, you can ignore the problem until you die. It's your own choice.

    Later,
    ErikZ
  • by crovira (10242) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @04:33PM (#441189) Homepage
    The reality is that 15% of the people are going to be sick 85% of the time while 85% of the people are going to be sick 15% of the time.

    Those are the friggin' statistics.

    However which people belong to the 85% and which people belong to the 15% change over time.

    If the friggin' companies can't hack those numbers, they should get the fuck out of the fucking business. They don't belong there.

    The purpose of insurance is to spread the risk and spread the wealth. Running it for profit is a mugs game.

    You end up with the argument from the companies that if you need it you can't get it.

    This type of testing will prove self-defeating because if you can get insurance, you aren't likely to need it so its a waste of money so don't buy any insurance.
  • Wrong. The insurance company's purpose is to FUND health care, not have any deciding factor in it. Unfortunately this isn't consistent with HMO's. The whole purpose to insurance is that you're buying into the security as a whole to pay for you if something bad ever happens to you. Doing genetic testing is NOT the same as an insurance company asking if you're a smoker. You can always lie about being a smoker. Genetic testing has the possibility of describing specificly what you could die of. This information frightens me if its in the wrong hands.
  • That's just spin-talk for "The alternative is to declare that people need to face up to reality."

    The reality is that any time a society disenfranchises a significant portion of the population, violence will be the result.

    What else could you expect from a group of people who have been told that eventually they will need expensive medical care for a disease that doesn't effect them now, and as a result they are barred from meaningful employment and/or insurance and thus, guaranteed to NOT be able to get that treatment (which is otherwise available) when the time comes.

    Any animal (H. Sapien being no exception) will behave in extreme (and usually violent) ways when backed into a corner. That's a reality that people need to face up to.

  • by travis77 (261826) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @02:27PM (#441199)
    Just make the insurance companies non-profit. It gives freedom and flexability of insurance companies but without the greed of shareholders wanting a profit.

    Travis
  • Straight from the State of Utah's insurance fraud website [state.ut.us]: 118 cases opened for investigation, 61 cases- prosecution was initiated, and 4 Fugitives.

    Even with 118 cases opened for investigation, that's still well under .01%. Granted this is just the official investigations by the State of Utah's Department of Insurance Fraud, I don't know if this includes the insurance companies internal investigations, but I couldn't locate any data on that. I will agree that there is some fraud that goes unchecked, but I'm just going by the "official" data I found. Everyone can speculate on how much fraud is really happening, but it's only speculation.

  • So what are the consequences? Well, if there is no genetic testing by insurance companies then there will be no insurance industry, because insurance is all about probability, and when as far as the customer is concerned there is no uncertainty, but as far as the company is concerned there is, and insurance agreement is unattainable, and even redundant completely anyway.

    I work for an insurance company. Insurance is gambling, and insurance companies are the house. No insurance industry in the furture? You obviously have no idea of what you're talking about. The insurance industry does SO well that the government makes laws to make sure they don't make too much money!

    Later
    Erik Z
  • There is a relatively simple solution to this problem. Require people to buy insurance policies specifically insuring them against genetically related health tests before they have such tests. I won't go through the economics here, but a) this solution ends up being relatively cheap since the cost of genetic disease is already included within the larger cost of insuring for health and b) completely solves the information problem where health insurance breaks down if either the insurance company or the patient has access to information related to genetic disease that the other does not -- unlike today where there is a hesitancy to get genetic tests because it might be disclosed to insurance companies, coupling the cost of the test with insurance would remove that problem.

    It is not a *perfect* solution but there really aren't perfect solutions since health insurance is based on the notion that the risk of a given disease occurring in a specific individual compared to any other individual is relatively unkown, while genetic testing produces enough information to theoretically say person X has a 1 in 10000 chance of having testicular cancer while person Y only has a 1 in 100000 chance.

    Many members in my family are carriers of a deadly genetic disease and I've spent a lot of time looking at these issues and insurance that covers the additional risk seems to me the best option.
  • Okay, first, I voted for GWB and would scare most slashdotters with my right-wing views. But in my old age, I am coming to soften my Randian views in a few areas.

    Ummm...are you new? Slashdot has a huge libertarian/right-wing/Randian segment. Try posting as one of us leftists if you want to scare most slashdotters...
    --
  • Insurance companies may well need to discriminate on the basis of genetic testing. Whether this discrimination takes the form of higher premiums or outright refusal of coverage doesn't really matter, but the right of the company to make such discrimination should be considered. Why? Because the people they are insuring may have access to the same genetic testing information. This information may be direct, through the same sort of genetic testing, or indirect, through family history of ailments or such. Consider life insurance: If anyone with a terminal illness could go and buy a million dollars in term life insurance, the life insurance companies would go bankrupt. Hence, most life insurance policies require some sort of health review to make sure you don't have some sort of known terminal illness. It's a matter of having a level playing field. Insurance companies should be able to have as much medical information about you as you do. They need to be able to determine the risk of insuring you as well as you are able to determine the risk yourself. Something to consider before complaining about evil privacy-invading mega-corporations.
  • Insurance companies may well need to discriminate on the basis of genetic testing. Whether this discrimination takes the form of higher premiums or outright refusal of coverage doesn't really matter, but the right of the company to make such discrimination should be considered.

    The problem is, if that bias includes things nobody can do anything about, the Feds will have to implement insurance for the uninsurable. If they are going to do that, they might as well cover everyone. Having done that, there is no longer a place for insurance companies.

    The alternative is to declare "the weak and the sick must die for the good of the economy" or, perhaps Gattica. Either of those plans creates a class of people who are unemployable, but must get (a lot) money to live. They are likely to be far better motivated and capable of long range planning than most of the chronically unemployed in the U.S. What law could stop a desperate and motivated mass of people who know they will die unless they get a big pile of cash fast?

    I know I don't want to run afoul of such a group of people.

    Never forget the sage analysis of Mad magazine: Life insurance is you betting the insurance company that you'll die before they think you will. If you win, you lose.

  • The alternative is to declare "the weak and the sick must die for the good of the economy"

    That's just spin-talk for "The alternative is to declare that people need to face up to reality."


    ---
  • by LauraLolly (229637) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @12:45PM (#441215)
    Last month, Scientific American [scientificamerican.com] ran an editorial [sciam.com] piece on genetic testing in the workplace. It was scathing. There were reactions to it in the CDC and the Departments of Labor and Justice. (Or so I heard from friends who work there.)

    This is a day late and a dollar short, but better than nothing.

  • by slashdoter (151641) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @12:47PM (#441218) Homepage
    well Mr Malda your results are back, looks like you are going to like Computers, free beer, linux, and legos. good, good looks like we can insure you and you are going to make alot of money to pay us just sign right..... Opps hold on whats this? anime with 12 year old girls, hmmmm..... opps I just forgot, we have met our sales expectations this month and I can't sell anything more, so sorry, perhaps you would like to check out anohter company.


    ________

  • Ah, so you are actually arguing that I should be paying 'security' or extortion money so that I'm not held up at gunpoint?

    The real issue is that if we create a class of unemployable and uninsurable people, we may not have a choice in the matter. If the only practical way for someone to live is through crime, we shouldn't be too surprised if that's what people in that situation turn to.

  • by fizban (58094) <fizban@umich.edu> on Saturday February 10, 2001 @12:51PM (#441221) Homepage
    Holy Shit, I'm reading people here saying that this is Okay! What the fuck? And what about the comments saying that people shouldn't do something they're not talented at or genetically capable of. Bull!

    These tests are looking for a predisposition for a certain disease or ailment and using that to determine insurance policies. That means you could go through life without ever contracting a disease or health problem, but you still have to suffer discrimination against you as if you were definitely going to have a problem.

    Are we fucking crazy here? What about the rights of the employees? What about the freedom to choose a career no matter what your talents or skills, or the genetic possibility that you might get hurt?

    Thank you to the U.S. Government for taking a positive stand for personal freedom!

    --

  • Extrapolate this to employment. We really could end up with a genetic underclass. If I have bad genes, I can't get a decent job because I'm an employment/inusrance risk, and then I live in a miserable existence. I can only reproduce with similarly disposed individuals, and then I end up with kids who are even more likely to be victims of discrimination. Downward spiral here....

    These people won't die off, but they'll just be the scum of the earth.
  • Because it undermines the whole purpose of insurance in the first place. Which - btw - has been perverted from its original concept.

    Insurance has always only had one goal, to make money. They are just gamblers, betting against you about some future event in your life. The odds are always in favor of the house, and if you don't like that, then don't bet.

    Don't try to get stupid laws passed that would cause insurance companies to assume more risk than they want to, it costs everyone else through higher rates, and turns insurance into a sort of welfare.
    -

  • Insurance is about creating a shared pool of risk. When the pool is large, some people are going to be charged disproportinately more compared to their actually risk. This is why insurance companies like to evaluate, as much as possible, the risk factors in the people that they insure. Are you a smoker? Well then, that puts you in a different pool with a higher premium. Not a smoker? Well then you pay less.

    The funny thing is, if the science gets exact enough, nobody will get insurance at all. It would actually be cheaper to save the money you know you'll need or to try to get a loan than to buy insurance (since they know what you'll get, and more or less when, they will charge enough in premiums to pay for it plus their profit, you could save up for it slightly more easily).

    I realise that the science is nowhere near that point today. The closer it gets to that point, the less worthwhile insurance will be for anyone.

    Everyone assumes this will automatically mean higher premiums. For some yes, for others premiums will be cheaper. Suppose you have genetic resistance to AIDS (yes, there is such a thing), and no genetic predisposition to heart disease or cancer. Wouldn't you like a break on your premiums? Or maybe you are the type that would like to pay the same as a smoker does. Not me.

    One way or another, you'll end up paying. For the uninsurable, it will be a matter of life of death. You'll either pay in the form of insurance premiums, medicare/medicaid + welfare, or crime. Personally, I'd prefer either of the first two.

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @03:39PM (#441230)
    Wow. Alot of people think this is the right thing to do...go Genetic Screening! Yea for big business!

    You don't know why this is bad? Because...it's a slippery slope, that's why.

    Discrimination against race is wrong...right? Or did the whole demographic of /. change while I was at Chevy's this afternoon. Well...if discrimination against race is wrong...how can discrimination against genetics be right?

    This is about a company testing people for a gene...do any of the people here cheering this on have any idea what might happen if this practice spreads?

    Genetic testing to see if you might be an alcoholic and then denyed a drivers licence if you are. Genetic testing to see if you might have addictions to drugs and then increased police monitoring. Genetic testing to see if you might get cancer and denial of a job or health benifits.

    Is it right to deny people of african ancestory jobs in cold weather conditions because of inceased risk of frostbite? No. of course not. Then why is it alright to start to deny people things because of other genetic traits? Today it's a minor insurance issue...tomarrow it will be a far, far greater issue.
  • Okay, I'll bite on this obvious Flamebait. You seem to be pro-insurance companies, I don't know why, but I can only assume that a family member is in the business.

    But then again, you compare insurance with gambling, so you really are unclear on the concept.

    Insurance is based on the concept of shared risk. The companies have the right to refuse service to you if you take on risk voluntarily: e.g., smoke, drink, live a gay lifestyle (yes! It's true! er, I think...), but they don't have the right to discriminate against you genetically.

    I suppose that it would be okay for insurance companies to screen prospects based on their genetics, but then again, that would lead to different rates for different races, and segregation would triumph. One might even argue that it is racist, inasmuch as predisposition to, say, sickle cell anemia is a condition only of Blacks.

    An insurance company that can dial in the level of risk they want to assume? I bet that's an agent's wet dream, but it should not happen. The level of income should be proportionate to the level of risk. If a company wants to insure white people against sickle cell anemia, they should charge exactly what the premium is worth: $0.00. But that isn't how it works; they make their profit based on the Law of Large Numbers.

    If the insurance companies don't want to offer basic coverage to Everyone, then I think they should not be in business. I think it is the Government's Job (with your tagline, I Know you are going to wrongfully disagree with this one) to Regulate the Insurance industry and eliminate those who would skew the concept of shared risk.

    I swear to you, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Genetics and the implications of genetic advances are going to be the biggest story of the next year if not the next decade. And not all the stories are going to be good.

  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @05:30PM (#441232) Homepage Journal
    Insurance and Privacy

    I am appalled by the people who see nothing wrong with genetic testing for insurance. These are often the same people who are infuriated when e-commerce companies violate their privacy by tracking their web surfing habits. If genetic testing is not a violation of your privacy, what is? Do insurers have a right to get the records of your grocery purchases to look for unhealthy foods? Should they be able to test your sexual partners for diseases prior to issuing insurance coverage to you? Do they have a right to the medical history of every member of your immediate family?

    Insurance and Society

    Insurance is valuable to society. It prevents a certain percentage of society from being financially ruined, unable to pay their mortgage, car loan, or even grocery bills. It is not in society's best interest for those people that most need insurance to be denied it. The argument that anything that increases the profits of insurance companies is good is a ludicrous, amoral one. The interests of society outweigh the bottom line of the insurance industry.

    Your Premiums

    There is another argument made claiming that it is unfair for "healthy" people to pay higher premiums to provide coverage for those that would be screened out by a genetic test. In addition to being incredibly self-centered and greedy, it shows a basic ignorance and denial. Some percentage of these self-proclaimed healthy people that have some genetic predisposition to some disease. They just don't know it yet. Now, ask yourself when your insurance company every lowered your medical premiums because they had better screening for risks.

    The Myth that Genetic Testing is a Necessity

    Insurance existed and thrived for decades before there was genetic testing. To claim now that the entire industry will be bankrupt if they cannot subject each and every applicant to a barrage of genetic tests as part of the application is preposterous.

    The Role of Government

    Because the goals of the insurance industry are often not in line with the best interests of society, the government needs to put limits on the insurance companies. In this case, the government has a duty to step in and prevent large portions of society from being denied medical coverage, or even employment, because of a genetic predisposition to an illness.

    Applying for medical insurance, whether individually or through an employer, should not trigger a form of genetic Russian Roulette where you go in for a battery of tests and are faced with financial ruin if one comes up positive. While insurance companies need unfettered access to your existing medical records in order to write health insurance policies, the government should deny them the ability to create new health records through additional testing -- genetic and otherwise.

    If we permit genetic testing, should infants be tested and, if found to have a gene for some devastating illness, be put into an uninsurable genetic underclass -- destined to be financially ruined? Would we carry it further and deny them schooling, Medicare, and social programs (why spend tax dollars on someone who will probably die at a young age?). Should employers be allowed to refuse to hire them in order to keep from training someone who will probably die soon. Should family members be forced into bankruptcy in order to pay for the medical care of their genetically-flawed loved one?

    As I have said before, we are supposed to be members of a civilization, not pack animals that leave the weak to fend for themselves and die.

  • You made a lot of sense, until...

    Granted, this may make some people essentially 'uninsurable' - well, this is where the federal government should step in. Either forcing private insurers to take lower profits and cover the extremely high risk folks, or covering them themselves under a federally funded plan.

    What is the purpose of government? Is preventing natural death a part of that purpose?


    ---
  • Everyone assumes this will automatically mean higher premiums. For some yes, for others premiums will be cheaper. Suppose you have genetic resistance to AIDS (yes, there is such a thing), and no genetic predisposition to heart disease or cancer. Wouldn't you like a break on your premiums?

    You actually believe that the insurance companies would voluntarily lower your premiums? Screening for illnesses has been improving for decades and medical insurance costs have just gone up while the coverage has gone down.

    I do not know of any serious health problems that I have, but I resist going to the doctor until it is absolutely necessary. I don't get physicals or yearly checkups. Why? Because I am afraid that they will uncover some heretofore unknown medical condition and I will be uninsurable for the rest of my life. I will be at the mercy of my existing insurance company as they raise my rates and look for any excuse to drop me. Like many Americans, I don't benefit from the available screening out of fear for my insurability. And that is wrong.

    Finally, you equate smoking with genetic predispositions to illnesses. In the former case, it's a choice. In the latter, it's just bad luck. And the purpose of insurance is to financially protect people who are unlucky.

  • This thing has been linked to lots of health problems.
    Click for more information about Chromosome 17 [upenn.edu].

    Attack of the 50 foot Chromosome 17's. The Linux Pimp [thelinuxpimp.com]

  • by crow (16139) on Saturday February 10, 2001 @12:56PM (#441242) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, lassez faire breaks down when the person making the purchasing decision is not directly spending their own money. I can think of several good examples:



    Landlords have no incentive to make their units energy-efficient if the tennents pay the utility bills.


    Corporations (and individuals) have no direct financial incentive to avoid polluting the environment.


    People have no incentive to reduce health care expenditures when they are covered by insurance.


    It's that last point that is the problem here. Insurance breaks down the laws of supply and demand, because cost is no longer an issue. Hence, government regulation is necessary to correct the situation, either by regulating the market, or by altering the rules of the market to restore supply and demand.

  • What a bunk argument, serving only to rationalize extortion. We have a choice in the matter - if people turn to a life of crime because of desperation, then it's their own fault that they'll end up in jail, hopefully for a good long time. There's no realistic danger of this happening, as long as we reduce the welfare state.

    Under those circumstances, a rational person might just decide that prison is a better deal than living in the streets. Anyway, why do you think reducing the welfare state will reduce the danger of this happening?

  • It seems to me that the big problem is that people will be able to get genetic tests done personally, and then get insurance policies based on those claims, and then make a fortune because they know precisely what is going to happen to them!

    That's called "insurance fraud." You have to provide all of your medical records to the insurance company. It's not like this type of thing was impossible before. There were tests for diabetes, hypoglycemia, hepatitus, malaria, etc. You could get one of these tests done, find out it was positive, and withold the information from your insurance company. This did not bankrupt the insurance industry. They just raised the premiums enough to cover that small percentage that committed fraud.

    By the way, how would you "make a fortune" by being susceptible to a disease? You seem to feel that you would have luxury cars, boats, vacation homes, etc. Tell me how.

  • Genetic testing has determined insurance for a long time.

    Consider this: I'm an XY. I have to pay vastly larger amounts on my car insurance than I would have to if my DNA had an XX shape.

    We've been doing this for a long time...

  • Why shouldn't companies be allowed to test their employees for conditions that would lead to higher health care cost and exclude those it feels are too expensive to cover? What is served by foisting these costs on to employers?

    (As posted previously in UK Insurance Co. Admits Using Genetic Screening' [slashdot.org]) (added comments follow):

    It is expected that most insurance companies would have some sort of medical exam for things like life insurance, to avoid issues just like this.

    But more general items like health insurance are another thing. Or would you like to have YOUR own insurance cancelled because, you are getting older, and might get sick, and thank you for paying out the 30 or 40 years of premiums without much payout.

    There has been a major problem with insurances companies cancelling insurance when you go to use it in a major way.

    In this context, avoiding people who might not even know they have some genetic condition can be suspect. The point is not insuring people based on pre-existing conditions is a bad thing. The potential insurance liability should be shared "equally" (or at random) by all insurers.

    "Unapproved" tests in this case is not the same as "unapproved" medicine. Medicine is sometimes regulated so that people do not hurt themselves. Tests are sometimes regulated so that the companies do not rip you off.

    (now to continue)

    Obviously, there is a point where a life can be save only if we use the ten million dollar procedure, and hey, this guy is "only a street bum".

    So now you have opened the fine can of worms entitled "The value of Human Life".

    Yummy Yummy Yummy.

    How much value do you put on a human life, and how would you assess it? How valuable is your girl friend, or your mother, or your other Generic valuable relative?

    You know that some people subjectively assess others as worthless. (lawyers and politicians, for example) How much should you take that literally?

    You have had a clever thought, and have not been clever enough to figure out how it applies to the world at large, or to the people around you.

    Not clever enough by at least half.

I'm all for computer dating, but I wouldn't want one to marry my sister.

Working...